LONDON — Not for the first time, Boris Johnson took a gamble and got away with it.
The U.K. prime minister risked a wave of anger from the White House this week when he said Chinese tech giant Huawei could help build the British 5G network. But a visit to London from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo showed that the White House dog can bark without biting.
Asked on LBC radio on Thursday night how disappointed the U.S. was with the British decision, Pompeo avoided the chance to attack: “Thats a great question but Im not going to answer it.”
He added: “Our relationship has been great. Its been great for a long time. I believe now well be able to do even more, whether thats on security, or on economic matters [or] diplomatic things that we will work on across the world.”
For months, America lobbied Britain hard against allowing Huawei a role in U.K. 5G. The stated American concern is about putting data on a network it believes is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party — although some critics believe it has more to do with the U.S. hoping to suppress Chinese growth and influence. Huawei has repeatedly insisted it operates independently from Beijing and doesnt pose a threat.
A White House official said the decision was disappointing. But Trump himself has not commented in public.
But the U.K. security services insisted they could manage the risk, and Johnson decided to allow Huawei to build so-called non-core parts of the network and face a 35 percent cap on the proportion it can supply. He also threw a bone to Donald Trump by saying Britain and the U.S. would work together to boost other tech firms in the hope that they can better compete with Huawei in the future.
It was enough for Trump to let Britain slide — despite the fact that Washington doesnt accept the distinction between “core” and “non-core” parts of a network. A White House official said the decision was disappointing. But Trump himself has not commented in public.
Johnson smoothed the announcement with a phone call to the president last Friday evening, and another call once the Huawei decision was made on Tuesday. In their second chat, the prime minister even buttered his counterpart up over his long-awaited Middle East “peace plan.”
The U.S. maintains it has not completely given up the fight. In his LBC interview, Pompeo said the administration would have to “continue to talk to [the U.K.] about the risks as we see them so they can continue to develop their plans and policies.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnsons government on Tuesday announced it will allow Huawei to sell equipment for 5G networks but keep its access limited to peripheral, non-sensitive parts of the network
Asked whether the White House might limit intelligence sharing with Britain, as officials warned in advance of the decision, Pompeo left the door ajar: “We will certainly never put American information in a place that we dont deem safe.”
Sitting alongside U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab at an event hosted by the think tank Policy Exchange earlier on Thursday, Pompeo was in forgiveness mode. He insisted the so-called special relationship was “not at risk” in the wake of the row, adding: “I am very confident that our two nations will find a way to work together to resolve this difference.”
And in a comment likely to have elicited a sigh of relief in Downing Street, he said the U.K. was still “at the front of the line” for a trade deal with the U.S. after Brexit.
Johnson met Pompeo at Downing Street on Thursday afternoon to discuss the Huawei issue, a trade deal and other topics, according to spokespeople from both countries. Asked after the meeting whether the special relationship was still on course, a No. 10 spokesman said: “I think yes, very much sRead More – Source